Señor Pedro’s Little Kingdom: An Afternoon at Cafe Publico

From pasta to sandwiches, gelatos to dips, coffees to wines -- this Greenhills cafe caters to every craving.

Coffee shops are popular go-to places for a cup of coffee and a quick bite while perusing the latest corporate manuals or revising the latest chapter of a dissertation. For some reason, I found myself having trouble concentrating when I would attempt to study in popular coffee shops because they are always so busy with people rushing in and out every few seconds. My friends and I have difficulty holding intimate conversations over afternoon coffee in such establishments as well because they have become stopover zones for the harried folk—which I feel is their actual purpose, anyway. The thing is, those who come to coffee shops in hopes of a leisurely afternoon have become nomads in the Land of the Busy.

Enter Cafe Publico.

Peter Chua, owner and jetsetter, says that the concept of Publico emerged from his love of travel and his desire to provide people with an unimposing venue to relax. “We were very particular about a name,” he shares. “Establishments like this would usually come with a fancy-schmancy French name that you can hardly pronounce, but we’re in the Philippines! You don’t want to seem imposing here.” ‘Café Community’ had been one of his final choices for a name, but it still did not sound right to him—the magic did not kick in until he came up with Publico.

Cafe Publico is a quaint and artistic two-level room with high ceilings on the second floor of Promenade in Greenhills. The interior and color scheme alone will immediately set your mind at ease due to its welcoming wooden furniture (all locally supplied!), soft yellows and calming blues. Patrons will feel as if they have been transported to an indoor Mediterranean alfresco eating area; shuttered window boxes line the walls of the café while a large door creates the illusion of a Hotel Publico. Another notable piece is the large chess set near the window area which is sure to delight chess players and design enthusiasts. Board games and other games of interest serve as center pieces on the café’s long table by the counter. Oh, and while you’re there, don’t forget to say hi to the Publico mascot, Señorito—his throne can be located at the counter.

There are no rules here at Publico; Peter wants people to know that there is a little bit of something for everyone. They serve all sorts of things from pasta to sandwiches, from gelatos to dips, from coffees to wines—it’s not something you see in establishments that are designed to serve the purpose of cafes. Publico doesn’t worry about that, though, and if they don’t, why should we?

The food items that were served for us are some of Peter’s personal choices. I remember checking out their menu when I came to visit for some gelato some nights ago and zeroing in on the Crab Artichoke Dip (P280), so I was delighted to see it being served first. Even if you are someone who has no idea what artichoke is or what it tastes like (you’re missing out on plenty!), you are still bound to love it as an appetizer because it is creamy, tasty and perfectly safe for those who are wary of indulging in food with strange ingredients. The other appetizer was nachos with Moroccan Beef Chili (P245), which has that fun, playful taste; it’s just the right kind of spicy, so you don’t have to worry about anything.

Crab Artichoke Dip

Moroccan Beef Chili

We were served two pasta dishes, namely, the Mushroom and Truffle Cream Spaghetti (P310) and the Spicy Tuna Spaghetti in Olive Oil (P280). It’s easy to get your mouth watering for the Mushroom Truffle because you can smell it from the kitchen, which adds to its appeal as a very delicious dish. For a cream-based sauce, it is surprisingly light and not at all overwhelming. The Spicy Tuna Spaghetti, served in olive oil, has this distinct taste that complements the first variant of pasta well; I recommend having them served together.

Mushroom and Truffle Cream Spaghetti

Spicy Tuna Spaghetti in Olive Oil

For dessert, we had the Mexican Bandit (P250) and the Arigato Affogato (P210). The Mexican Bandit is a fun little coffee drink served with vanilla gelato laced with a hint of Patron XO which gives you that pleasant buzz perfect for a hot afternoon—just make sure you mix it well because it can get pretty overwhelming. The Arigato Affogato is just like the Mexican Bandit minus the Patron and plus coffee jelly; it’s an excellent choice for a nice, cold pick-me-up.

Mexican Bandit

Arigato Affogato

Of course, we can’t feature Publico without touching on its crème de la crème: the Gelato (small – P105, medium – P160, large – P210). Peter, being a big gelato fan, proudly shares that his varying flavors are his own personal concoctions. Some, like the now popular Red Velvet (which is a new favorite of mine), are requests from customers. Gelato is an art form for Peter; he wants to do away with the more common flavors (although he does have some classics in stock, so don’t worry) and come up with fun, adventurous ones. My very favorite, the Sophia Loren, is one of the byproducts of his zany imagination—strawberry and pistachio all rolled into one. While patrons are welcome to “safe” flavors like Vanilla, Publico urges you to try out the more unique ones like Thai Tea, Blushing Geisha, Toothpaste, to name a few.

In Peter’s reply to my initial email regarding the feature, he made some hints about Publico appearing in one of my novels. Now that I think about it, I can easily imagine my main man, Lucian Gale Hawke, helping himself to some Publico gelato while waiting for his friend to show up. I can also imagine Dylan Rockford furiously scribbling song lyrics on an unused napkin so she won’t forget them. Funnily enough, I can even imagine eccentric artist Niall Flynn leaving the confines of his apartment to touch up his latest masterpiece at one of the tables.

See? It’s a place for everyone—you’ll feel right at home.


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